Saturday, May 19, 2007

Brain blogging carnival - 9th edition

1 comment:

Ellen Chambers said...

Dr McGrew:

I am a special education activist in Massachusetts. I have started a non-profit group, SpEdWatch, Inc., to serve as a special education watchdog group in Massachusetts. I am putting forth an argument that because only 8% of Massachusetts students with disabilities are categorized as having significant cognitive impairments, by definition 92% of Massachusetts students with disabilities are as capable as their non-disabled peers. I am looking for help in how to defend this argument or, alternatively, to put forth an highly defensible argument that these students with disabilities must be presumed able to master the same academic content as non-disabled students (albeit under different learning conditions.)

On June 7 I am meeting with the Massachusetts Department of Education (MASSDE) to discuss and defend SpEdWatch's demand that MASSDE drastically increase its current expectations for the academic achievement of its students with disabilities. Those expectations have been published and are as follows:

By the year 2011, 28.2% of all Massachusetts students with disabilities will be proficient in English
By the year 2011, 18.2% of all Massachusetts students with disabilities will be proficient in Math

In answer to our demand, the MASSDE Director of Special Education replied to me:

“… we do not, at this time, plan to revise the targets set for these indicators… you appear to believe that only intellectual disabilities present a barrier to learning and performance, yet the eligibility criteria for special education for all disabilities is that the disability is causal to an inability to make effective educational progress. … disabilities are very complex. And, even with strong special education services that are well designed and effectively delivered, the ability to mitigate the negative effects on learning by the disability (regardless of type) varies widely. At this point, there is no research evidence to suggest that, as a group, students with disabilities are able to consistently perform similarly to their non-disabled peers."

I countered with:

"Expectations for the performance of students with disabilities must be based on their innate cognitive ability, not on the barriers that their disabilities may present to the expression of that ability, as your response implies. I do not disagree that disabilities are complex. However, to stop our analysis at this point and conclude that only a small number of these students are capable of reaching academic proficiency does these children great harm. Consider Helen Keller."

I have read your December 2004 "Expectation for Students with Cognitive Disabilities: Is the Cup Half Empty or Half Full? Can the Cup Flow Over" and have reviewed your Forrest Gump slide presentation, and have absorbed what I could.

If there is anything I might reference that would allow me to put these people straight I would truly appreciate it!



Ellen M. Chambers, MBA
Executive Director
SpEdWatch, Inc.
P.O. Box 1440
Pepperell, MA 01463
(978) 433-5983

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor;
it must be demanded by the oppressed."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from Birmingham Jail
April 1963